Sampson Sports' Stratics S5 clipless road pedals offer up a lot of performance for a very palatable price. Most impressive is the rock-solid platform, which features a generous 59mm-wide replaceable stainless steel plate mounted into a stout forged aluminium body.
This all rotates on a sensible chromoly spindle and three cartridge bearings per pedal instead of cheaper and less durable bushings. Come overhaul time, the setup is easy to work on. Entry and exit is smooth and reliable as well, and there's a broad range of adjustment in the retention spring.
The system is a bit more muted-feeling and isn't quite as snappy feeling as, say, a Look KéO or Shimano's SPD-SL, but it's effective and secure nonetheless. If you're after an especially light release tension, Sampson have an alternate version on the way that offers even lower-effort engagement and release.
The Stratics S5 pedals are very light for the money, at just 242g per pair (without cleats), and just US$139. For weight weenies on a budget, Sampson also offer the Stratics S6 model with titanium spindles that shed about 22g apiece for another US$100.
Look's popular KéO cleats will clip right into the Stratics pedals with no issues aside from slightly reduced rotational float, which is handy if you're already dedicated to the system. Curiously, the opposite combination doesn't work, though – a definite bummer.
Stance width is at the wide end of the spectrum with each side placing your foot 2-4mm further away from the crankarm relative to Shimano, Look or Speedplay. Unfortunately, the range of cleat adjustment isn't enough to correct it. This won't be an issue for some but it's a hiccup for those who are trying to keep things as tight as possible, or even just maintain the same fit from a set of KéOs.
Long-term, we can't help but wonder about the durability of the plastic tab that presses against the end of the spring tension adjuster screw. It didn't create any issues for us during testing but we'd prefer an alloy bit all the same.